Salary Guide 2024
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This salary guide focuses on the information technology, human resources, marketing, accountancy & finance sectors.
The salary information has been drawn from several sources. We have analysed data from over 3,400 organisations, 22,000 registered jobs, 350,000 recently active candidates, ONS data and external data sources that the Ashdown Group subscribes to, including Mckinsey & Co Economic Reports, the Office for National Statistics, London School of Economics, OBR, LinkedIn’s Economic Reports, PWC CEO report and the EY Item Club.
Market insights have been gathered through feedback from the Ashdown Group recruitment team and a series of targeted surveys to determine the salary and employment market trends from over 2,300 clients.
Salary data is presented as lower quartile, median and upper quartile against basic salary, without the inclusion of bonuses or benefits packages. Each percentile relates to a different level of experience, size of business and industry sector. The data is intended to be used as a guide and is based on average salaries.
If you would like to find out more about how your salaries compare to others in the market, we offer our clients bespoke individual salary reports for a precise salary assessment, based on industry, geography, competition, job role and company size.
Employment Market Trends
All early indications suggest that, although 2023 saw a decline in recruitment activity, as economic uncertainty starts to lift in 2024 we will see a return of confidence in the job market.
Levels of job advertising fell for every consecutive month during 2023, and have been in decline since the Summer of 2022, as interest rates started to climb. Despite this, skills availability within our sectors of IT, Marketing, Human Resources and Accounting have remained tight. Any increase in hiring demand during 2024 is likely to result in elevated salary as demand outstrips skills supply.
The pace of salary inflation has decelerated from the highs of 2022, with the market average within the professional private sector dropping to 6.6%. Notably, a growing salary gap has appeared between large corporations and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which is concerning for small businesses planning to grow.
This differential is likely to put pressure on smaller businesses in 2024 and will require an innovative approach to attract talent. Historically this has been met with work place flexibility, work hours flexibility, work place culture and other non salary related incentives to encourage new joiners. In a time where these incentives have become standard, small businesses may face skills shortages.
We recommend that our customers conduct a thorough role-based review of salaries. High-demand skills continue to exert upward pressure on certain salaries, surpassing inflation rates. Employers are encouraged to align compensation packages with market realities to attract and retain top talent.
It hasn’t been a great 12 months from an employee’s perspective.
Hiring demand has fallen every month since July 2022, leading to greater candidate availability and impacting salary negotiations, making it harder for staff to insist on raises.
The volume of jobs has fallen by an average of 25% across our sectors between January and June 2023, and the number of jobs advertised is significantly lower than the same period in 2022. With interest rates rising in June for the ninth time since May 2022, this trend is likely to continue for the rest of the year.
Prior to this, high-demand skill areas such as software development and cyber security could previously expect annual salary increases of 10% to 15%. With demand faltering across the board, these roles are now seeing annual increases more in line with the national average of 6% to 7%. With inflation staying stubbornly at around 8%, even employees with the strongest negotiating powers are taking a real-terms hit of 2% to 3% in spending power.
Basic salaries are not the only area employees are receiving less. In 2022, our research showed 52% of employers across all four of our sectors gave employees some form of financial support to address the increased cost of living in 2022. In 2023, just 5% of employers are doing this.
Throughout the first half of 2022, demand for candidates soared to an all-time high, plateauing in mid-summer as businesses scrambled to meet growth plans. Since then, we have seen a gentle cooling of the job market as economic pressures and market volatility eroded business confidence in the second half of the year, in line with ONS* job market data.
However, demand for staff within knowledge industries is still outstripping supply, meaning salary inflation for roles in these areas is above the national average within the private sector of 6.6%*.
With unemployment at its lowest since 1974 and a shortage of key skills, employers are under pressure to raise salaries to retain their teams and attract new employees.
Culture and Environment
Following a candidate survey there has been a shift in priority with flexible workplace/hybrid working being replaced at top slot by an increase in salary becoming the number one reason for changing jobs. We believe this has been driven by the cost of living, but also that hybrid working has become an expectation rather than a benefit or privilege and is consequently viewed differently.
However, with a weaker job market, we have seen a growing number of businesses insisting on employees being in the office more often. For some this is now 5 days a week and, where in 2022 the balance was two days in the office, 3 days at home, this has now reversed. This increases an employee’s costs and time and is deeply unpopular. As the demand for skills increases with an improving economy, any insistence on office presenteeism is likely to back fire as employees have more favorable conditions presented to them with a switch of jobs.
Following a review of candidates priorities carried out by the Ashdown recruitment team, we list the most important factors considered when moving job in priority order.
Salaries have become more important to employees, but they’re not the only aspect considered when deciding whether to take a job. Workplace flexibility has become highly important to many – in part because avoiding high commuting costs can help ease the pressure in an inflationary environment with stagnating salaries.
It would be easy to think that the softening job market has given employers the upper hand when it comes to persuading people to return to the office. But it’s not that simple. In addition to the cost of commuting, employees have become wedded to the comparative freedom working from home can offer, and coming into the office more than three days a week is deeply unpopular. Businesses who do insist on five days a week in the office are likely to find themselves having to pay higher salaries as a result – and potentially still finding it difficult to fill roles. Conversely, others will be able to use their flexible approach to entice sought-after staff.
Instead of a forced office return, we have seen many employers focusing on the benefits of office-based work in a bid to persuade people in. Collaborative projects, training sessions and team decision making sessions all help to bring people together. Employers can also educate staff about the negatives of being too isolated, which can impact mental and physical health as well as personal motivation.
With a highly competitive job market, companies have been looking at innovative approaches to attract and retain employees, with an increased focus on wellbeing and purpose via ESG (environmental, social, and governance) schemes.
Flexible working and hybrid work environments are now an expectation for many employees.
2022 saw employees focus on the purpose of the organisations they work for. There is growing pressure on companies to ensure they are sharing and communicating company values and demonstrating their impact on society, with employees finding it increasingly important that their employers act ethically and with integrity. Any business that ignores these factors will lose out when looking to attract new talent. Diversity, sustainability and minimising impact on the environment are all key factors for candidates looking for new roles.
Media stories flagged the growth of so-called ‘quiet quitting’ – doing the bare minimum at work - gaining momentum as a trend online in 2022, but this was not something we’ve observed in our network.
Following years of pandemic lockdowns that involved 100% remote working, the preferred hybrid model, favoured by most employers and employees, is two to three days in the office per week. Employees are pushing for a more balanced life, while employers are seeking the benefits of collaborative face-to-face time. Businesses insisting on Monday to Friday office-based work are accessing a much smaller talent pool, or having to pay as much as 10% more to attract new talent.
With pay historically higher in London and the South East, salaries are now becoming more consistent across the regions as remote working becomes the norm - especially within hard to fill positions. This is putting regional businesses under pressure, with many struggling to hire.
As a result of these cost pressures, more businesses are being forced to consider outsourcing their hard to find roles.
Job to job moves
A study by the Resolution Foundation in November 2023 found that the UK labour market had become more dynamic since the pandemic, with job-to-job moves reaching a record high of 2.8% in the third quarter of 2023.
This trend is further reinforced following a research paper by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in October 2023. The report analysed the impact of the pandemic on job mobility and wages, and found that job changers experienced higher wage growth than job stayers, especially among low-middle paid employees. As this cohort are more sensitive to the cost of living pressures, it seems logical to presume that we will see a greater volume of job movement from this group as the economy recovers.
Employment levels, squeezed incomes and productivity gains.
Despite the government’s predictions earlier in the year, unemployment did not rise as rapidly in 2023 as expected, with employment levels remaining high.
Employees remain highly focused on the cost of living, their squeezed incomes, and the ongoing impact of the last two years. The economic data might be looking more positive, but the reality for many is that they still have less disposable income with rising costs and high interest rates – held for by the Bank of England at 5.25% in February.
As salaries continue to climb, businesses will increase their expectations around productivity, requiring more of employees. They will look for other ways to improve efficiency and save money. We’re likely to see more automation technology being used and a drive for process efficiency in the years ahead. Although the take up of AI technology isn’t currently replacing jobs it is only a matter of time, and how to best use AI skills to enhance efficiency, especially within marketing roles, is becoming an expectation. Businesses will be expecting employees to be more productive and deliver more value.
A number of economic speculators are predicting interest rates falling to 4-4.5% in 2024. With each interest rate drop will come additional investment, greater confidence and a return to growth in the economy.
For now, job vacancy volumes remain depressed, candidate availability has improved and there is less competition for top talent. However, as the economy recovers, we predict a fairly rapid reversal of the current situation. With certain skills already in tight supply employers are likely to enter a bidding war if they want the best. In addition to competitive pay, benefits such as workplace flexibility and overall package will help to attract talent when we return to an employee led job market.
We are starting to see a growing divide between the pay of large businesses versus small to medium firms. Small companies will need to come up with innovative ways to attract new talent should they find themselves in a position of growth.
At the moment, there is relatively little light at the end of the tunnel. As the Bank of England wrestles with inflation, the financial markets predict further increases in interest rates and we expect this will further impact demand for skills and growth hiring in the short term.
During 2022 many employers, finding it difficult to fill roles, hired at a lower level of skill and experience than usual. As a result, retention and development has become a core focus of businesses – 52% of the businesses we surveyed are maintaining their training budget in 2023 and over 40% are increasing spend in this area.
GDP growth and better economic conditions will return at some point – current forecasts suggest midway through 2024 – and businesses need to be careful that, with so little growth hiring currently occurring, they are in a position to deliver on their planned strategy once growth returns. A lack of talent may cause problems for those who fail to plan now for better economic times.
Cost of Living Support
Over the past 12 months the financial strain experienced by individuals due to increased living costs has led to some discontent among employees. At the same time businesses have grappled with rising operational costs, constraining their ability to implement substantial salary increases. The prevailing job market conditions have tempered the appetite for inflation beating salaries and we believe this will likely lead to greater employee churn between jobs in the year ahead.
In addition, salary negotiations have become tougher for employees as candidate availability has eased, and job vacancy volumes are lower. Salary increases above the rate of inflation have become a thing of the past, except for in high demand skill areas.
With falling inflation there has been a reduction in cost of living support from employers. However, many non-financial measures have remained and there has been an increase in awareness around the link between productivity and wellbeing, with many post-pandemic initiatives now becoming standard benefits.
Cost-of-living and wellbeing support measures
Despite the drop in cost-of-living financial support, many employers in the UK are still taking an active interest in employee wellbeing, including financial wellbeing, as part of a broader employee engagement initiative.
The cost-of-living crisis is having a profound effect on employees in 2023, with a higher salary becoming the primary reason for seeking a new job. Most UK incomes are falling in real terms, with increased taxation and high inflation having an impact.
In 2022 companies rushed to help, putting a range of measures in place to ease the pressure if they couldn’t offer inflation-matched pay rises. But while these are still ongoing at some employers, the level of support on offer has fallen over the last 12 months. During 2022 over half (52%) of the businesses we surveyed offered a one off cost-of-living payment or other financial assistance; in 2023 just 5% plan to repeat this.
In addition, salary negotiations have become tougher for employees. In 2022, we saw more organisations increasing salaries in line with or above inflation – software development and testing roles, for instance, saw annual increases averaging 15%. Things have been much more muted in 2023, with annual increases in hard-to-fill areas now matching the national average of 6% to 7%.
It’s important to note that the impact of these smaller raises will be particularly acute in 2023, because of rising housing costs. Across 2023 the Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation is predicted to be 7%. The RPI, however, includes mortgage payments, and is expected to be above 10%. As employees come to the end of fixed rates of 1% to 2% interest and move on to today’s rates of 6 or 7%, their disposable income will fall dramatically. Renters will also suffer as landlords pass their costs on.
Cost-of-living support measures
Despite the drop in cost-of-living support, many employers in the UK are still taking an active interest in employee wellbeing, including financial wellbeing, as part of a broader employee engagement initiative. Measures include:
- Introduction of employee assistance programmes (EAP) that support staff with financial wellbeing. They offer access to free financial advice, training, and debt management services.
- Crisis management loans with no interest.
- Upskilling employees and supporting professional development.
- Subsidised meals.
- Offering additional work-from-home options to reduce commuting costs and subsidised travel.
- Introduction of workplace stress management programmes.
Although we saw a reduction in hiring during 2023, there is a latent demand for certain skills within all four of our industries. This is especially true for hard-to-fill positions such as software development and data centric roles.
While it may not be possible for everyone, we would advise any business with a strong balance sheet to take advantage of the quiet hiring market to acquire the skills they will need to grow market share.
Not only will this offer access to a higher number of candidates in a market that is relatively low on opportunities for job seekers, it will ensure your business is on the front foot when growth returns.
With so much pressure on incomes – rising mortgage rates are causing particularly acute issues for many in 2023 – any upturn in demand for skills once the economy improves will be accompanied by higher salary demands, more resignations, and tough competition when it comes to sought-after skills. Strategic workforce planning has never been so critical.
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